Chinese Painting Techniques


Chinese painting is one of the oldest forms of painting traditions in the world today, and been known as Guóhuà, which means “national” or “native”. In the past these traditional paintings followed similar techniques as calligraphy, as they use brushes dipped in either black or colored ink, depending on the particular piece being created. However, unlike in the Western style of art, oils were never used in these traditional pieces.

Two Main Techniques

1. Gong-bi – These types of paintings were extremely detailed. The brush strokes were created deliberately, and they were extremely precise unlike in other forms of art work. In the past, Gong-bi pieces were often created by artists that worked directly for royals who would request pieces to be drafted for their personal amusement.


2. Ink and Wash Pieces – In current terms, these particular pieces are known as watercolor or brush paintings. This particular style is also known as “xie yi” or better known as freehand.


Six Principles

These principles were established and written by Xie He. These principles were written back around 550 AD, and therefore they refer to the older styles of artwork that were created back in China.


1. Spirit Resonance – The spirit resonance principle generally referred to the flow of energy that linked and artist with the theme that they were going for as well as the actual piece of work. According to Xie He, if a piece didn’t reach Spirit Resonance, then there wasn’t any reason to continue to look into that particular piece of artwork.
2. Bone Method – The Bone Method refers back to the link between handwriting and personality of the piece. Back in Xie He’s time, it was incompetent to even think of separating calligraphy from an artist’s work.
3. Correspondence to the Object – This would depict the mere form of the piece. It included looking at not only the shapes in the piece but the lines as well.
4. Suitability to Type – This principle deals with the color and application of the paint. It goes from the layers, value and tone that the pain colors are used.
5. Division and Planning – Placing and arrangement of objects in the piece fall into this principle. Depth, space, and composition of what is within the actual piece regardless if it is a piece of landscape or other objects.
6. Transmission by Copying – Transmission by copying is the principle that has to deal with copying models. It doesn’t have to be people or lifeforms, it could be a work of antiquity. For instance, the wings of a bird could be wrapped and placed within a piece depending on the one’s perspective creating it, or they could use innate object.

Different Popular Dynasties and their Reigning Era

1. Tang Dynasty – Zhou Fang was a very popular artist that used the lives of the royals and court to create his pieces. During this particular era, others, like Fang, generally would use bright and brilliant colors, but they would use a fine black ink to outline their pieces as well. However at the beginning of this dynasty, landscape was a large part of pieces. For instance, they would use the brilliant colors needed for wildlife such as birds in pieces, but would define their wings with the black paint to bring it out more with accents.

2. Song Dynasty – During this era, there was a large emphasis on landscapes. However there was a large difference in pieces that were made between the Northern Song period and the Southern Song period. Neo-Confucianism was one of the leading factors in the difference between pieces created in these two distinct periods of history. During the Northern time period, pieces were generated around political officials, where as in the Southern time period, pieces would veer towards more intimate scenes.

Douglas Dillion’s Impact

Douglas Dillion was born in 1903 and he was the founder of the Legacy Chinese Painting for the Metropolitan Museum. He started his involvement, when he began to sense that Asia would have a large importance in world affairs. The museum was his way of following through on his ambitions and realizations.


Chinese painting is one of the oldest forms of painting traditions in the world today. Traditionally, Chinese art focused upon landscape pieces using soft and vibrant colors. Its use of calligraphy techniques sets these particular pieces apart from other culture pieces, especially for the earliest pieces.

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Chinese Painting
Chinese painting is one of the oldest forms of painting traditions in the world today, and been known as Guóhuà, which means native.
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